There's no denying the gravity of the movement around sexual assault and harassment in the last few months. No one in music today has been wrapped up in this conversation as much as Kesha, whose years-long battle with her former producer (and alleged assaulter) Dr. Luke is the shadow behind her powerful, chart-topping comeback album "Rainbow" and its searing-yet-hopeful single "Praying."
The academy could make a statement on the cultural climate by acknowledging the record's bravery — and laud an artist who overcame more than just about anyone to return to the top of the pop world.
With the charts and pop radio heavily tilted toward rap at the moment, there’s so many recognizable artists in the mix for the rap Grammys that, beyond Lamar, the nominations are anyone’s guess. At the 2016 ceremony, Lamar won all four trophies in the rap categories — making him the third act to score a clean sweep after Eminem and Kanye West. And he just might do the same this year.
Yet the competition for rap album is particularly fierce. Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, and J. Cole are serious contenders. Future’s back-to-back releases could very well see him in two categories (rap and urban contemporary album) and there have been so many massive rap singles this year that the song categories will be stacked. Migos, Cardi B, Future, Yo Gotti, Big Sean, Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert could all keep Lamar from a sweep.
The competition for new artist is as hot as ever, with a slew of fresh faces having broken out this past year. Eligibility rules for this one are complicated, making it hard to predict, but alternative-R&B singers SZA and Khalid have had huge years with their inventive debuts. Julia Michaels, who penned hits for Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez and Fifth Harmony before stepping to the forefront, is also a front-runner for a nomination.
Pop artist Alessia Cara should have been nominated last year, as her album “Know-it-All” was released in 2015, but she’ll be tough to ignore this go-around after having a little more chart success, not to mention her collaboration with Zedd, “Stay.”
Rappers Post Malone, Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboy Carti and Logic had some of the year’s biggest hits and voters could look to rectify hip-hop’s long tradition of being underrepresented in this category by nominating multiple emcees. Yet the Grammys have always loved a good redemption story, and crooner James Arthur bounced back with the ballad “Say You Won't Let Go,” which helped rescue him from a seemingly torpedoed career years after a string of offensive lyrics had him ostracized. Country acts Luke Combs, Kane Brown and Old Dominion all have a strong shot here, as does indie band AJR and pop singers Zara Larson and Dua Lipa.